A young bride with long, healthy hair (Shopzters Photo, Z Studios)
Hair is the fastest growing natural tissue in the human body, with the average growth ranging between 0.5 cm and 1.7 cm per month. Beautiful, lustrous hair is generally regarded as a sign of good health brought about by a healthy lifestyle and a balanced diet made up of nutritious food.
This is a continuation of my previous article that provided nutritional guidelines to help promote healthy hair growth, strengthen hair follicles, and prevent hair loss.
Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine)
Vitamin B6 has the ability to balance the production of sebum in the scalp. Sebum is the oil that is naturally produced by our skin and scalp. Overproduction of sebum results in clogged pores, which creates an unhealthy environment for hair follicles (the tiny pores from which new hairs grow) and prevents proper hair growth.
Vitamin B6 activates the enzymes involved in chemical reactions that produce the proteins, keratin and melanin, in the hair follicles. Keratin, the protein that makes up the hair, nails and skin, promotes hair growth and hair renewal, while the natural pigment melanin gives hair its colour. Thus, in some cases, Vitamin B6 may help to restore the hair’s thickness as well as its natural colour.
Vitamin B6 also improves blood flow to the hair follicle and scalp. This highly oxygenated blood supports hair growth.
Vitamin B6 regulates the function of the sex hormones, testosterone and oestrogen, and this directly affects hair growth. Excess testosterone leads to the production of the hormone Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) which causes hair loss by decreasing the length of the hair growth phase and reducing the size of the hair follicles
Food sources of Vitamin B6 include turkey, chicken, fish, shrimp, pork, eggs, milk, cheese, lentils, beans, soybeans, oats, peanuts, sunflower seeds, pistachio nuts, whole wheat products, wheat germ, spinach, carrots, cauliflower, avocado and bananas.
(Picture from Pixabay)
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3 helps with the growth and maintenance of strong, healthy hair by supplying and supporting blood flow to the scalp, thereby facilitating the delivery of nutrients which support thick and healthy hair growth to the hair follicles. It also helps in the formation of keratin.
Vitamin B3 has the ability to lock in moisture in the hair, which helps treat dull, brittle hair as well as inflammation that may be caused by extremely dry skin on the scalp. Both these conditions are major contributors to hair loss.
Vitamin B3 plays an important role in lowering LDL / bad cholesterol and raising HDL / good cholesterol in the blood. Since high levels of LDL cholesterol has been linked to hair loss, this function of Vitamin B3 also helps with healthy hair growth.
Niacin can be obtained from foods such as beef, chicken, fish (tuna and salmon), nuts, fortified cereals, mushrooms, legumes, green leafy vegetables and milk.
Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin)
Vitamin B2 is essential for the growth of healthy hair as it plays a crucial role in activating vitamin B6 and B3 in the body.
Vitamin B2 also helps maintain healthy levels of collagen in the skin and hair. Collagen is one of the main structural proteins in the body and it is involved in the production of keratin. It also strengthens the skin that contains the hair roots and helps to create the outer wall of the hair follicle, thus preventing hair follicle damage and greying.
Vitamin B2 is found in dairy products, rice, whole grains, wheat germ, spinach and other green, leafy vegetables, broccoli, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, eggs, almonds, soybeans, organ meats, fortified cereals and Brewer’s yeast.
These foods should be stored away from light, as light destroys Vitamin B2. Riboflavin can also be lost in the water when these foods are boiled, so it is best to roast or steam these foods to make the most of their vitamin content.
Vitamin D is involved in the creation of new hair follicles, which helps in maintaining hair thickness and preventing hair loss. Vitamin D also plays a crucial role in the healthy functioning of keratinocytes, a type of skin cell that creates keratin. When the body does not get enough vitamin D, the keratinocytes in the hair follicles are unable to properly regulate hair growth and as a result new hair growth can be stunted.
Vitamin D can be got primarily through exposure to the sun, as the body creates vitamin D from direct sunlight on the skin. However, you must keep in mind that over-exposure to the Sun could increase the risk of skin cancer.
Good food sources of vitamin D include oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel, cod liver oil, red meat, liver, cheese, egg yolks, mushrooms and fortified foods such as dairy, cereal and non-dairy milks.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, so having these foods along with foods like avocados, nuts, and seeds that are high in healthy fats, will help the vitamin to be better absorbed into the bloodstream.
Vitamin D supplements should only be taken after testing the blood to check current vitamin D levels, as an excess of Vitamin D can cause toxicity and may also result in hair loss.
I would like to reiterate the importance of trying to achieve nutritional goals primarily through your diet. Nutritional supplements should only be taken if they are prescribed by a health care professional. Moreover, please seek professional advice before making any major dietary changes, especially if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, are already on medication or supplements, or are suffering from any medical condition.
Healthy hair requires a complex mix of nutrients, and proper nutrition plays an integral role in supporting hair growth and preventing future loss or thinning. Thus, eating a nutritionally balanced diet can have a beneficial effect on hair structure, strength, thickness and rate of growth, which will in turn translate to a head full of beautiful, lustrous hair that is a reflection of overall good health and wellbeing.
Sandhya Govind is a qualified and trained Naturopath and runs the ‘Sandhya’s Naturopathy Clinic,’ an integrated Natural Medicine facility, which helps people rediscover optimal health, radiance and vitality naturally. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; The above article should be read for general information purposes only and not taken as individual advice. Please always consult your GP or other authorised persons or agencies for personal advice. Indian Newslink and Sandhya Govind absolve themselves of all responsibility or liability in this connection.